In 2003, San Sebastian’s local government divided officially the city into 17 quarters, although here we will concentrate on those closer to the sea: Centro (Centre), Gros, Antiguo, Parte Vieja (Old Town) and Amara. Thanks to a wide public transport network, travelling by bus from one district to another is very easy.
The Old Town is the walled area located between the harbour, the mouth of the Urumea River / the Paseo Nuevo, the Urgull Mountain and the Boulevard. It is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in San Sebastian.
Among the attractions it has to offer, we find the church of San Vicente and the Basilica of Santa Maria. Both of them are situated on 31st of August Street, at both ends of the street which runs parallel to the Urgull Mountain. Very close to San Vicente is the Museo San Telmo, another landmark in San Sebastian. La Bretxa market, a mixture of traditional and modern shops, is probably the most genuine market in San Sebastian.
In the last few years, the Old Town has experienced an astonishing recovery thanks to the renovation of the old La Bretxa market, the Museo San Telmo or the refurbishment of Plaza de la Constitución, the heart of this area.
Another great attraction offered by the Old Town, is the possibility to try “pintxos”. These are truly works of art, “miniature gastronomy”, and several bars, here and in the rest of the city, compete with each other in their preparation.
There are more than 100 bars and restaurants where it is possible to have from the most delicious pintxos and bocadillos to the most sophisticated à la carte meals.
Both in the Old Town and in La Bretxa market is possible to buy wonderful traditional products such as txistorra (typical spicy sausage), chorizo (another type of spicy sausage), honey, different types of cheese, cider, pantxinetas (typical cream and nuts cake), crafts and souvenirs.
A marvellous route you may want to take is the one starting at the Boulevard going towards the harbour and from there to the Paseo Nuevo, passing by the Aquarium. Then perhaps you can go up to the Urgull Mountain, just a 15 minute climb to the top, from which you will enjoy the most beautiful view of San Sebastian. Coming down towards the Old Town again you will reach the Museo San Telmo. Our recommendation now is to walk around the streets and enjoy the pintxo bars. Another classic is Fermin Calbeton Street, famous for the great number of bars gathered there. Tradition says that one should go into each bar within this street and have a glass of wine or a “zurito” (small glass of beer) and a pintxo.
This is San Sebastian's Old Town, a neighbourhood where both visitors and locals get together, where tourists try to take a photo which may show a part of history. It is an area that although it may seem very quiet and tranquil during the week to walk around the pedestrian streets, it becomes very much alive at the weekend or on Bank Holidays, mainly at lunch or dinner time.
San Sebastian’s Centre represents the heart of the city. It is a very elegant area situated between La Concha Beach and the Urumea River. It borders on the Gros neighbourhood at East, on the Antiguo at West and on the Amara at South.
A great deal of shops and most of the distinctive buildings in the city are found in this area. Among these it is worth mentioning the Town Hall, the Victoria Eugenia Theatre or the Cathedral of Buen Pastor.
Bars and restaurants are spread out all around this area and if you would like to enjoy some typical pintxos, you can try any of them here. Or perhaps you prefer to pop-in in the Old Town, which is just a five minute stroll away.
La Concha promenade stands out in this area, world famous for the beach and bay but also for the spectacular panoramic views. La Perla, a thalassotherapy centre is also situated along the promenade.
The Miramar Palace appears as a natural frontier between the Centre, Antiguo and Aiete neighbourhoods. It is situated within a beautiful park facing the bay.
Several supermarkets can be found in this area as well as one of the most attractive markets in the city, the San Martin market. Both, traditional and the latest shops are located in this store.
Very close to the city centre, at the entrance of the Old Town, there is another well-known market, La Bretxa, where there is also a good mixture of traditional and modern shops.
A gorgeous route you may want to take is that going from La Concha to the harbour and from here to the Paseo Nuevo, all along the seaside. Parting from this Paseo Nuevo, you may also feel like going up to Urgull Mountain, just a 15 minute climb. From the top you will enjoy the most beautiful view of San Sebastian. Coming down from the Mountain, you get back to the Old Town and, after passing by the Town Hall, you will reach La Concha again.
If you come to visit the city by car, you will find that there are several public carparks in the city centre: La Concha, Boulevard, San Martín, Okendo, and Buen Pastor.
The Antiguo Neighbourhood: Located to the West of the city, the Antiguo is one of the most beautiful and genuine neighbourhoods in San Sebastian. This is a very quiet and tranquil area at night-time.
The long promenade with pretty gardens along the Ondarreta Beach is a landmark here. At the end of this walk we find the famous sculpture of Eduardo Chillida, the Peine del Viento (Wind’s comb), one of San Sebastian’s symbols.
The westernmost spot of this beach is marked as the starting point to the climb of the Igeldo Mountain. From here you can get the funicular to the Igeldo amusement park.
Igeldo is also a small neighbourhood located on this Mountain.
The Miramar Palace is situated at the easternmost point of the Ondarreta Beach and it appears as a natural frontier between the Centre, Antiguo and Aiete neighbourhoods.
Another important and lively spot in the Antiguo neighbourhood is the Matia Street. There are both modern supermarkets as well as traditional shops in this area. Once a month, a street market of typical products is set up here too. As in other parts of the city, there are several well-known pintxo bars along this street.
A recently built residential area called Benta Berri is found at the end of the Matia Street. The Basque Country University Campus (UPV) is also located here.
Gros: The Urumea River separates this neighbourhood from the Old Town and from the City Centre. It borders on the Cantabrian Sea at North, on the Ulia Mountain at East and on the Urumea River and the Kursaal Convention Centre at West. Two bridges separate Gros from the city centre, giving it an obvious closeness to it.
Zurriola Beach, the newest of the three beaches in San Sebastian, is located in this neighbourhood. It is very popular among surf lovers and professional surfers.
At the end of the promenade along La Zurriola, at the side of the Ulia Mountain, there is an area of houses, pintxo bars and pubs called Sagües. It is a favourite spot among young people. There is also a great esplanade and car park in front of the sea.
There are lots of shops all around Gros and in the last few years, it has become a very popular area for those in search of good quality pintxo bars and pubs.
There are some wonderful short walks to be enjoyed from Gros. For instance, starting at Sagües and walking all along La Zurriola promenade until you reach the Paseo Nuevo (and as scenery the rough Cantabrian Sea). From here you can go up the Urgull Mountain, a mere 15-20 minute climb, then come down to the harbour and from there back again to the Old Town and Gros. A trully enjoyable all around walk.
If you are visiting the city by car, you should know there are three large car parks in the area: Plaza de Cataluña, Kursaal and Txofre.
Amara: This neighbourhood represents the city expansion carried out beyond San Martin Street. In the last few years has undergone the biggest urban development in San Sebastian due to the construction of a new neighbourhood close-by: Riberas de Loiola.
It is divided into three different areas: Old Amara, New Amara and Riberas de Loiola.
Old Amara is located around the Euskotren Railway Station. It represents the more traditional and classic aspect of the whole of the neighbourhood. This can be seen in the shops, bars and restaurants found around here. It is worth mentioning the agricultural street market set up the first Saturday of the month at the Easo Square.
The New Amara represents the urban development which took place around 1960s. Nowadays is known above all because of housing the majority of sport facilities in the city: the Football Stadium, a cycle track, an ice-skating rink, an athletics track, swimming-pools... It is a lively neighbouhood with lots of shops, bars and parks.
Riberas de Loiola is the newest neighbourhood in San Sebastian which can be reached after a pleasant walk along the river or by crossing the gorgeous Cristina Enea Park. An outstanding characteristic in this area is the great amount of open spaces, squares and parks created in between the buildings.
There is still a lot to be discovered within this neighbourhood. However, it is worth mentioning the church designed by Rafael Moneo (architect who designed the Kursaal Convention Centre), the walkway over the river which takes us to Cristina Enea Park, the sport facilities, a rowing club and what is known as “Memory Garden”.